When I’m talking to someone and they start ranting and raving about something, one of my favorite things to say to them (tongue-in-cheek) is: “Oh, don’t beat around the bush; tell me what you REALLY think.”
A lot of time is spent on this blog de-constructing various aspects of institutional Christianity. Taken together, it might seem like so much ranting and raving. So today, I thought I’d tell you what I REALLY think about the institutional church.
I love it.
(Well, not the “institutional” part, so much as the “church” part.)
You see…all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are the church, the Body of Christ, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal/Charismatic, evangelical, emergent, house church, whatever. All those elements are adjectives that give an indication of what the practice of our faith looks like–but the faith is the common element. We differ in our practices, and in points of doctrine; but even with common creeds like the Apostles’ Creed, what really identifies us as Christ-followers is Person we are following, not the doctrinal statement we happen to hold.
This is important to re-state from time to time, because (as history shows) it is so easy for us to get an us-versus-them mentality about other Christians who do not believe or practice certain things the way we do. For those of us who are in various stages of leaving the institution, we need to not fall into the same snares of divisiveness against our brothers and sisters.
The church is the church, wherever, whenever, and however we meet, institutional or not. Jesus loves the institutional church, because He sees the church inside the institutions. And we are commanded by Him to love one another as He loves us. So while I question those things about the institutions that I see as counter-productive…I still love the church within those institutions. Passionately.
I have been involved with house church for over 8 years now; but I still minister in more traditional settings where I am welcomed, because it’s still the church, and I’m still part of the church.
I am not against institutions for their own sake; I am for what works, and for what is best for us. My number one issue with institutional Christianity is not that I think it’s wrong (as in right versus wrong), but that I think it doesn’t work well, especially in our day. I think it limits us and keeps the church from being all that she could be. It’s still an opinion–one that is informed by study and experience. Not a doctrine.
While there is little Biblical support for the institutional forms of church, that is not why I question them. As I’ve said several times now, just because something is extra-Biblical does not make it anti-Biblical. But if the form is not working well, and Scripture itself does not support it…that’s when it’s time to re-think.
Even so…I do not have an agenda to tear down the institutions by what I say here. I think God is dealing with institutional Christianity in His own way, and He does not need our help. I feel that the trends we’re seeing are evidence that God is doing something, and all I want to do is respond to that in kind–and that’s a lot of what I’m writing about on this blog.
But I still love the church. And if you are following Jesus, so should you. Jesus commands it of us.